The Papers of Benjamin Franklin Online: two different resources


I. The Digital Franklin Papers

This site, created and maintained by the Packard Humanities Institute, has been freely available on the web since 2006.* Here, you will find searchable texts of nearly every document collected by the Franklin Papers editorial team, from the beginning of Franklin’s life to his death in 1790. The database includes all texts published in Volumes 1 through 37 of The Papers of Benjamin Franklin, covering January, 1706 through mid-August, 1782, and provides preliminary, rough transcriptions of all the papers beyond that point. The rough transcriptions of documents through mid-March, 1785, will, in time, be replaced with the verified texts published in Volumes 38 through 43 of the Papers. As our final volumes are published, the remaining texts will be updated.

The Digital Franklin Papers does not include the editorial headnotes and footnotes that provide historical context and identify people. It does, however, include biographical sketches of all Franklin’s correspondents and provides English translations for many of the French-language documents, both of which were prepared exclusively for this website. It also includes third-party letters, including the correspondence of Franklin’s grandson William Temple Franklin.

The site also features an Introduction, with links to particularly interesting letters, written by the late historian Edmund S. Morgan when he was Chair of the Administrative Board of The Papers of Benjamin Franklin. Morgan’s biography of Franklin (Yale University Press, 2002), which grew out of this Introduction, has become a classic.


II.  Founders Online

Founders Online is a cooperative venture of the National Archives and the University of Virginia Press to make available the published record of the nation’s founders. It includes digitized versions of the published volumes of the Papers of George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison.

The link above will take you to the Franklin Papers section of the website. (You can also search across all the editions.) There you will find all the texts and editorial notes, as published in The Papers of Benjamin Franklin, volumes 1 through 43. As future volumes are published, they will be added to the database.

*The Digital Franklin Papers was conceived and designed by David W. Packard, whose vision, expertise and generosity led him to pioneer the digitization of the founders’ papers, with the goal of making them available to users at no cost.  The Packard Humanities Institute partnered with The Papers of Benjamin Franklin in 1988, under the editorship of Barbara Oberg. The material was initially distributed on a CD-ROM.  The current website was launched on January 17, 2006,  the occasion of  Benjamin Franklin’s 300th birthday.

Many Franklin Papers editors contributed to this project. We are pleased to acknowledge them here: Barbara Oberg, Ellen Cohn, Marilyn Morris, Karen Duval (who oversaw the translation project), Jonathan Dull, Kate Ohno, Leslie Lindenauer, Judith Adkins, Darcy Fryer, and Michael Sletcher. Transcribers, editorial assistants, and research assistants  include: Sandra Allaire, Alicia Anderson, Patricia Armstrong, Catherine Boumkwo-Baneni, Alysia Cain, Blair Darney, Libby Garland, Nadine Honigberg, Owen Hughes, Amy Jacaruso, Karen Kauffman, Natalie LeSueur, Bryan Loder, Aidan McGlaize, Carter Wills McKenzie, Jennifer Macellaro, Elizabeth Morris, Francesca Penisi, Lisbeth Shepherd, Joanne Walroth, and Kate Woodford.  Translators include Chimene Bateman, Liselotte Davis, Christophe LeSueur, Larry Lopez, Lauren Pinzka, Jeremy Sabol, and Alyson Waters. We thank the dedicated staff at PHI who worked on the project: Stephen V. F. Waite, Wilkins Poe, Patricia Doherty, Brigitte Comparini, and David W. Packard.